The draft is coming up! That means all the big boards and mock drafts you could ever want, all coming with absolute certainty from complete non-experts. If you wanted even more speculation centered on absolutely nothing, you've come to the right place!
Matt and Marchave been swapping e-mails for a few weeks and making our picks for all of the NBA teams. They laughed, we cried, and Matt absolutely picked Devin Booker instead of Marc. Here are the first ten picks and the explanations behind them. One of them was definitely "we forgot he was still on the board."
1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns
I hate this. This Timberwolves situation is one of my least favorite, in that they bungled the Kevin Love contract so badly that he wanted to get out of there immediately, and they were rewarded for their incompetence by having two straight #1 picks on the roster for 2015-16. I guess I can’t hate on the system that has allowed for the Sixers’ rebuild, but I’m more sad about the implications for Towns and Wiggins than I am that the Wolves have more talent than they deserve.
The pick here is Towns. He’s the best player in the draft, and it’s not really all that close. He and Wiggins should be fantastic complements to each other, which would provide Minneapolis with a competitive franchise for the better part of the next decade. As a fan of basketball, I hope that Towns will be used in a manner that maximizes his abilities, rather than standing at the elbows taking 12-footers all season long.
If Towns somehow slipped to 3, I would be elated for the Sixers. So I tried to talk myself out of the pick. I just don’t see how any team in their right mind (especially one that trotted out Gorgui Dieng as their starting center for large portions of the season) can pass up the best talent in this draft.
I've made my peace with the fact that Towns isn't coming to Philly. He's just not getting past both the Wolves and the Lakers. Speaking of which...
2. Los Angeles Lakers - Jahlil Okafor
Okafor is the best player available, and despite everybody in Philadelphia's fear that they take Russell and leave the Sixers in OH NO RESTART THE REBUILD BY PICKING THE BEST PLAYER territory, I don't think that's going to happen.
Okafor is exactly what the Lakers are looking for. He will come in and make an immediate impact for them offensively, and since the Lakers have no patience whatsoever, that's their dream scenario. Some are concerned about his fit with Julius Randle, and while that's valid, you don't pass on him because you have Randle, who has played 14 more professional minutes than I have.
Plus, he fits in with the Lakers franchise center mythology, and while I don't think that matters to most teams, I think it'd be very hard for the Lakers to pass on a potential franchise center.
Good luck, Marc. We're all counting on you.
Can’t argue with that pick. As much flak as Okafor has taken recently for his shortcomings (and I have contributed my fair share to that flak), he’s still the most preternaturally gifted post-scorer in recent memory. He makes perfect sense for the Lakers, even if I don’t think he’ll help them get out of their current predicament alone.
3. Philadelphia 76ers - D’Angelo Russell
COME AT ME, MUDIAY AND HEZONJA TRUTHERS.
Turns out that I agree with your own pick, Matt. I have put a lot of thought into figuring out who I want the Hinkster to take with this pick, and, as much as I like Winslow and Hezonja, I can’t talk myself out of Russell. It really boils down to the simple reality that I don’t see either of those two players as having the ability to develop into a number one option on offense. I think both have a higher floor than Russell, but I don’t think either have the creation ability to shoulder primary responsibility in an NBA offense, and I think Voodoo can.
As for Mudiay, he does a lot of things well but nothing great, and his iffy jumper will hamper the things he already does well. I can’t help but think of Russell as a new age Ginobili— whipping no look bounce passes to cutters on the break and nailing triples off the dribble. He’s the perfect instrument for a system predicated on movement, passing, and shooting. And that’s something that is worth passing on these others if you can have a shot at it.
I've written more positive words about D'Angelo than about Andrew Wiggins himself, so obviously I'm on board. Now from a team that I have no idea what they will do to a team that has no idea what they should do.
4. New York Knicks - Justise Winslow
If I'm the Knicks, I'm trying to move out of this pick, in either direction. I don't like this spot at all for them. In an optimal world, if the board falls like this, they can find somebody who has fallen in love with somebody in this range (my random scenario here is a world where Denver moves Ty Lawson and then comes up for Emmanuel Mudiay) and pick up an extra first somewhere down the line, which would be huge for the Knicks right now.
If they don't, the best player on the board is Mudiay, but if the Knicks are as married to the triangle as they say they are, I don't see any reason to fit a square peg into a triangular hole. If they're not going to build around Mudiay's strengths, then pick somebody else, and that somebody else is either Justise Winslow or Willie Cauley-Stein.
I went with Winslow because I think ultimately, his defensive abilities are a huge boost for a wretched Knicks defense, and he can get some good looks offensively playing alongside Carmelo Anthony, who is in fact still on the Knicks. Plus, I feel like there's a bunch of great Batman references in Justise for Gotham.
I think that’s a decent pick for the Knicks. I agree, I think they’re at a spot where there is a lot of roughly equivalent talent. If they can trade down and recoup a future pick for their efforts, it’s probably worth it to them. I actually have Winslow as BPA at 4, so I think it’s as good a move as possible without a trade.
5. Orlando Magic - Myles Turner
I was so excited to be picking for the Magic at this spot. I think they’re the wildcard of the draft— they could go in so many different directions, and many would be defensible. This came down to Hezonja and Turner. Both would make sense as fits— Orlando desperately needs some sort of shooting on the floor, and they each provide that. However, it seems like Hennigan seriously takes personality into account during the draft, and that could be a major flag for him as far as Hezonja is concerned.
I’m on record as believing that the personality concerns are overblown, and I stand by that, but it’s also possible that they’re enough to sway Orlando to go with someone else. Turner has come across as intelligent and put together in each of his interviews— I think he won’t present the same issues as Hezonja does.
This may seem like a reach for Turner, but Hennigan has also shown a willingness to take risks and break convention with his selection of Aaron Gordon last year. Turner is a risk, but if he pans out, he will almost certainly be worth it.
To me, the single most important aspect of team-construction is interior defense, which Orlando lacks and which is exceedingly difficult to come by. Turner provides that. Vucevic’s presence would even allow for him to come off the bench in his first year, which could ease him into the more difficult competition. His shooting could work to help the Magic’s spacing from the inside out, somewhat mitigating Payton’s (and Gordon’s) disastrous stroke(s).
Your move, Matt. I dare you to take the Trill.
I like the idea of Myles Turner to Orlando far more than I actually like Myles Turner. What's sad is that I think Turner is immediately their best shooter.
As for the Kings, challenge accepted.
6. Sacramento Kings - Willie Cauley-Stein
This just feels right. It feels like something I should be able to write into my board with a sharpie and feel confidence that I'm at least going to get one pick right this year. Cauley-Stein is a great fit for this team. He's the rim protector that Boogie isn't. He might be the best player on the board at this point. Everything about this makes sense.
And then I remember this is the Sacramento Kings and they're insane. This pick is just as likely to be a paperboy from Bogota as it is a logical NBA draft pick. I have no idea what Vlade Divac, who, as of when I sent this e-mail, is ostensibly running the Kings, values. (Although by the time we finish this bit, Doug Christie might have final say.) Hezonja would be a fun little wild card here.
So for me, it's S̶t̶a̶u̶s̶k̶a̶s̶ Cauley-Stein.
I can’t believe you did that. I think they’re a terrible fit. Boogie actually does a fine job protecting the rim (Opp FG% 47%), and the last thing they need is a non-shooter taking up real estate where DMC does all his damage. Mudiay was perfect for them.
Now I get to take him.
7. Denver Nuggets - Emmanuel Mudiay
Josh Kroenke can’t believe his good luck. Mudiay somehow dropped into Denver’s lap at 7th overall. Shocking.
This team is a mess. The only two keepers at the moment are Gallinari and Nurkic, and even Gallinari is a question mark. Everyone else should go. But Mudiay is exactly the pick that they need here. If he can become 80% of the player that his most fervent supporters make him out to be, that can be a very nice three player nucleus in a few years. If the Nugs work out a Lawson trade later in the draft, the disastrous Brian Shaw era could be just a blip for this franchise.
I also love the idea of a big point guard who wants to get out and run playing in Mile High. Denver should always play fast, and Mudiay will allow them to do so.
I agree that Mudiay falling to 7 is basically Denver's dream. Ty Lawson started packing his bags before Adam Silver could finish Trill's name. (And we're totally on different pages with WCS, what he hurts in spacing, he'll make up for with his defensive versatility. They'd be a Western version of Noel and Embiid, so that'd be two fascinating case studies.)
8. Detroit Pistons - Kristaps Porzingis
I originally picked Hezonja here, and then I typed out a whole thing and realized it was almost entirely about how great it would be if they picked Kristaps instead, to the point where it totally swung the pick.
I'm in love with the pairing of Kristaps and Andre Drummond. I can't think of a better place for Kristaps to land, even if it means he has to play for Stan Van Gundy. He's the perfect floor stretching complement to Drummond, and as an upside play, I don't think there's anybody with a higher upside left than Staps, even Hezonja.
One of my favorite things about this draft is that I've heard like 9 guys described as guaranteed top-5 picks. Somebody's going to fall down here, and Detroit fans are going to be thrilled about it. Then, naturally, they'll realize they still live in Detroit and that excitement will subside a little bit.
The Charlotte Bobcats (THAT'S RIGHT I SAID BOBCATS) are on the clock. This feels like a no-brainer, but I look forward to seeing if Charlotte can find a way to screw that up.
Wow, that’s a nice pick for Detroit. I worry about players who need to develop going to a a combo coach-GM situation like Stan Van, but it’s tough to see him dropping anymore. Could create an awesome front court with Drummond. Also could create the worst passing front court in the history of ever. It would be fun to find out.
9. Charlotte Hornets - Stanley Johnson
This Hornets team is a mess, too. Paying Kemba was a mistake, and picking Vonleh may have been if they’re never going to give him minutes. I actually like Vonleh quite a bit, but it’s a travesty that he wasn’t getting 20mpg this season to try to work him in to the lineup. There’s almost nothing on the team beyond Vonleh and MKG, which makes the thinking pretty easy.
Charlotte need talent above all else. When Gerald Henderson is your starting 2-guard, you might need an injection of potential. Stanley Johnson doesn’t have the highest of ceilings, but he will definitely be a capable two-way player and may actually give the team some space to work in. No one else on the board has fewer questions than he does at this point, and if he can become a little quicker and improve his handle/finishing ability, he can be a real asset.
Now for the morass. There’s a drop in this draft right around 8 or 9. I’m ready to disagree on every pick. Are you ready to disagree on every pick?
Let's get ready to disagreeeeeeeeee!
10. Miami Heat - Mario Hezonja
Just on pure value alone, this is a pick the Heat have to make. I'm not sure they'd want to keep Hezonja, and I'd imagine that their predilection for older college players makes Frank Kaminsky very appealing here. That said, Hezonja falling to 10 gives them an upside prospect they just can't pass on.
Crap, I totally forgot about Hezonja. I absolutely would have taken him 9th for the Horbobnetcats. I’m an idiot. Obviously that’s a great pick.
I could absolutely see the Bobnets just outright forgetting about Hezonja, that might be the most realistic thing we've done in this mock.
That's it for the first ten. We'll cover the teens tomorrow and then wrap it up with the back end of the first on Wednesday. And on Thursday night, we'll have the real draft. We're sweating bullets already.